Congo: Immortal Bandits

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

 March 20, 2009: The big problem in eastern Congo are the militias. Thousands of gunmen have become rampaging bandits. Some 250,000 civilians have fled from these gunmen in the last few months, and over a million in the last year or so. Disarming all these men is very difficult, because the militias were never all that well organized, and the members were not noted for the discipline or reliability either. These gunmen will remain a problem in the area for another 5-10 years,

March 19, 2009: The government said that the UN mediation team sent to resolve disputes with the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) is no longer necessary. A “coup” within the CNDP brought new leaders to the fore and with the arrest General Laurent Nkunda by Rwandan forces in late January, the new CNDP leadership has pursued political reconciliation with the government.

This is another signal that the government thinks the joint military operation with Rwanda against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) was a political success, even though bands of FDLR fighters remain in eastern Congo.

March 16, 2009: Ugandan troops operating in northeast Congo have begun pulling back toward the Ugandan border. The Congo and Ugandan estimate the joint operation against the Lords Resistance Army has killed 150 LRA fighters. The Congolese Army has said that it will continue to conduct operations against the LRA. Congolese civilians in the area have accused the government of leaving them defenseless. NGOs have estimated that between 600 and 1000 Congolese have been killed by the LRA since mid-December 2008 when Uganda launched an attack on LRA sanctuaries in Congo.

March 12, 2009: Congolese Army has moved more units into South Kivu province. The troops are entering an area where observers believe FDLR militias fled after attack by Rwandan and Congolese troops in late January and early February. The UN Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reinstallation and Reintegration (DDRRR) program for FDLR fighters and supporters will continue. Around 350 FDLR members and supporters were repatriated to Rwanda between February 15 and March 6. This is in line with a request made by the UN Secretary-General’s office in late February that MONUC and the Congolese government “coordinate more closely” on resolving conflicts inside Congo.

March 11, 2009: The Congolese Army has begun reinforcing its units in eastern Congo and occupying areas vacated by the Rwandan Army. The Rwandans completed their pullout from Congo at the end of February. Observers from MONUC have confirmed that the unit replacement operation is occurring in South Kivu province.

 

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